Category Archives: USA Hockey

CANTLON’S CORNER: UCONN’S TAGE THOMPSON READY FOR THE NHL

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlingsgerry-150x130

STORRS, CT The long hours and years of hard work are about to pay off for UConn‘s Tage Thompson.

The poised winger, listed at 6’5 has the potential to be drafted in the first round of the NHL’s Entry Draft on Friday night in Buffalo, New York at the First Niagara Center. The draft will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 7 pm.

The Thompson clan will be all be on hand, including his parents (Brent and Kim), as well as his grandparents. They’ll all be there except for his younger brother, Tyce, who is attending the US-17 Development camp in nearby Amherst. The coach of that team is Hartford Wolf Pack assistant coach, and assistant GM, Pat Boller.

Thompson Action # 3 Agaisnt QUMaybe he’ll be excused to head over to see the big moment?

“It’s very exciting to be projected in the first round,” said Thompson. “I’ve dreamt of it, my entire life, and now it’s starting to become a reality. It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind lately, but we’re hoping for the first round, and we’ll see where Friday takes us. I’ll just be happy whoever selects me,”

At age 18, Thompson has been hard at work in the off-season, weight training, and following a nutritional plan to add some weight to his already impressive size.

“I’d say I’m in pretty good shape right now.  I’ve been training all summer; I was up at UConn during May, and I can feel myself getting stronger, putting on some weight. I think I am ready for this. I’d like to be between 200 and 205 [pounds] before the (Hockey East) season starts. Right now, I’m at 195.” Thompson said.

Last year playing as true freshmen, he formed one of college hockey’s most potent power play combos with center Maxim Letunov. Thompson led the nation in power play goals with 13, en route to posting a total of 14 along with 18 assists in 36 games. Thompson has the ability, as big as he is, to consistently find a way to be in the right position to release his rocket of a shot.

“It was a natural connection,” Thompson said of playing with Letunov. “We knew Thompson Action #2 Against SHUwhere each other was and playing with him helped me as a player.”

Thompson is currently a resident of Orange, Connecticut. He grew up in a hockey environment. His father, Brent, was a former, Wolf Pack defenseman who had a 14-year pro career. Currently, the elder Thompson is the head coach of the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ top farm team. Having a father with Brent’s experience and teaching ability has been a great lifelong resource at his disposal that few others rarely have.

“It’s obviously helped so much to have a father who has played the game and is now into coaching. He’s been around the sport his entire life and growing up with him helped show me what it takes to get there. He’s given me advice that’s had a huge impact on my game and development. And his competitiveness is definitely a part of who I am as a player.” remarked Thompson.

Brent is on his second tour of duty as the head coach of the Sound Tigers. He played 121 NHL games in his career and took part in 635 AHL games, of which 153 were with the Wolf Pack in their first two seasons. Brent was a second round pick, 39th overall, in 1987 by the L.A. Kings while playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL).

Thompson has his father’s frame but a bit more angular than bulk, but his hockey idols give a key to his mindset.

He admires Evgeni Malkin of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as Jeff Carter (LA) and Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars). Certainly not a bad trio to emulate.

Thompson will be among several second generation players likely to be drafted in the first round. One of those will be Alexander Nylander, (Missuagua Steelheads OHL), the son of ex-Hartford Whaler and New York Ranger, Michael Nylander. Another is Logan Brown (Windsor Spitfires, OHL) the son of former NHL’er Jeff Brown, and Matt Tkachuk, the son of 19-year veteran Keith Tkachuk. The younger Tkachuk scored the Memorial Cup winning goal in OT for the London Knights (OHL) and of course Kieffer Bellows, the son of Brian Bellows, from the USNDTP (US National Development Team Program). Bellows will attend Boston University in the fall.

Thompson Action # 1 Agaisnt BrownThompson also has had access to the hockey community over the years including his father’s trusted assistant coach and West Haven native, Eric Boguniecki, who played his prep school hockey at Gunnery and Westminster and had been invaluable to him.

“He has played the game in the NHL (178 games, and 341 points in 351 AHL games) and I’ve been able to talk with him to get advice on certain aspects of the game that you could only get from somebody with experience,” Thompson stated.

Thompson came to UConn via the USNDTP program which now operates out of Plymouth, Michigan. He plays in the Junior A USHL (United States Hockey League) and a fellow former teammate and Connecticut native from Ridgefield, Chad Krys; a defenseman who’s also a projected first round pick. Krys is heading to Boston University, and the two have been training together.

“We have been working out down here (Fairfield County), and he is top flight player himself,”

As tempting as it might be, even in jest, there haven’t been any side bets on who gets drafted first between the two pals.

“No, no,” Thompson said with a laugh. “I wish him the best.“

The two were at the NHL Combines, for a strictly off the ice, dry land situation, and no skating in the evaluation process.

“For the first few days, we met with all the teams, interviewed with their staff and so on so they could have an opportunity to get to know you,” Thompson said. “Then they put us through all sorts of tests, like the long jump, vertical leap, stuff like that. There was no skating at all, just all off-ice things.”

The decision to go to UConn as a true freshman last year was not an easy decision for the then 17-year-old when he arrived at Storrs.

“There was a certain wow factor playing against 24-year-old men. There was an adjustment to that, and I got more comfortable as the year went on.”

UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh’s trust in his prized freshmen on one of the youngest Division I teams in the country, was not unnoticed by Thompson.

“I’m in a really good spot here at UConn They’ve given me many opportunities to be successful. I feel comfortable with the coaching staff, my teammates, and I feel like we’re going to have a solid team next year. Coach showed his faith in me by trusting me, even though I was young coming in. There were growing pains he had to work with (with me) along the way.”

In addition to the joy coming tomorrow night, Thompson was selected on Monday to take part in next month’s trip to Michigan as a part of the 42 player World Junior Championship Evaluation Camp. The highly regarded Christmas time (December 26-January 5) tournament will be held in Toronto and Montreal this year. The Pool A Group the US is in will play in Toronto and games at the Air Canada Centre.

Thompson, who has dual citizenship, said college, not Canadian major junior, was the preferred route for him and that he will be back for his sophomore season at UConn, only he’ll return with an NHL jersey to sport with his name on it.

NOTES:

Thompson’s teammate, defenseman Joseph Masonius (Spring Lake, NJ), is also draft eligible. Masonius was also named to the WJC Evaluation Camp next month.

The last time the NHL Draft took place in Buffalo was in 1991 and was held in the old Aud. That year, there were two Connecticut natives drafted. The first was Mike Pomichter of North Haven. He played at Boston University and was chosen by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. The other selection was former Wolf Pack, Todd Hall. He was taken by the Hartford Whalers in the third round out of The University of New Hampshire.

Thompson’s linemate, Letunov had his NHL rights dealt for the second time on Monday as the Arizona Coyotes sent his rights to the San Jose Sharks along with a 2017 6th round pick for the Sharks 2016 4th round pick this year and 3rd round pick next year.

Letunov was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2014 in the second round, 52nd overall. St. Louis sent Letunov to Arizona for D Zybnek Michalek and last year’s third-round pick.

The 6’2 swift skating and puckhandling Russian came to UConn after changing his mind and rescinding his commitment to Boston University. He was named to the All-Hockey-East Rookie Team and selected to the All-Conference second team. Letunov set the Huskies record for regular season points.

Letunov played US junior hockey with the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) and then the Swift Current Broncos (WHL) selected him in the first round, 36th overall, in the 2014 CHL Import Draft. The Moscow native saw the Russian team, Salavat Yulaev, select him in the KHL Draft in 2013.

Enfield native Robbie Baillargeon might have achieved a college hockey first. As a graduate transfer from Boston University to Arizona State, under current NCCA guidelines, Baillargeon can play this season only as an undergraduate or would have to wait a year. Grad transfers have happened in football and college baseball.

In Hockey East news, goalie Patrick “Packy” Munson has left the University of Vermont and headed back home to Minnesota. Rumors were that he was going to transfer to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but he decided on the University of Denver.

Two more underclassmen from college hockey have signed with NHL clubs this week.

Boston College lost big defenseman Ian McCoshen to the Florida Panthers, and would likely see him start the season with the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL).

RW Nick Schmaltz of the national champion, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (nee Fighting Sioux), has signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and will start next year with the Rockford IceHogs (AHL).

Jimmy Vesey of Harvard could be a third to sign an NHL deal. The much-heralded left-winger has his four-year degree in hand. He had his rights traded from the Nashville Predators to the Buffalo Sabres, who gave up a third round pick. Vesey has elected under the CBA rules to become a free agent, so Buffalo enters the same sweepstakes as the rest of the NHL to win his rights. Toronto is one of the biggest players in that pursuit and just made his father Jim Vesey, a team scout after drafting his brother Nolan (University of Maine) last year, The Rangers and Boston Bruins are both considered to be players in the Vesey Sweepstakes.

35 Division 1 underclassmen have signed professional deals thus far, 143 players in total have departed for the pro ranks since the end of last year’s collegiate season among the five college hockey conferences.

North Dakota, Michigan, and Boston College have lost the most with five underclassmen each.

Former Yale Bulldog, and Bridgeport Sound Tiger, Jesse Root, heads overseas to HC Bolzano in Italy. HC Bolzano plays in the Austrian Elite League. Root spent most of the last year with the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL) and just seven games in Bridgeport.

At the US U-17 Select Camp, Pat Boller is not the only HWP connection. As mentioned, Boller is the head coach, but one of the goalie coaches is none other than ex-Wolf Pack, Phil Osaer. The Team’s GM is Danbury native, Kenny Rausch, who played at Immaculate High School. Besides Tyce Thompson, one other Connecticut prep school player invited was Ben Mirageas of Avon Old Farms.

Our condolences on the passing of Michigan State’s great head coach Ron Mason, who dies earlier this month at age 76. Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, MI was the site of the memorial service and honored the second all-time winningest coach in college hockey history (Jerry York BC is tops). Mason had a career record of 924-380-83. Mason also coached at Lake Superior State and Bowling Green University and played at St. Lawrence University in the early 1960’s.

His son-in-law was Shawn Walsh of the University of Maine and his grandson, Travis Walsh, just graduated from Michigan State. Travis went undrafted and played three games apiece with the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL) and the Chicago Wolves (AHL). Tyler Walsh is an assistant coach with the USNDTP U-18 Team.

Photos Courtesy Of UConn Athletic Department

CANLTON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF-SEASON VOLUME 5

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

THE AHL BACK IN SPRINGFIELD

HARTFORD, CT – A little over a month has gone by since the Springfield Falcons were sold to the Arizona Coyotes and moved to Tucson, AZ. Incredibly, AHL hockey will continue in the city with the Florida Panthers as the parent team for at least three years starting in the fall.

The league’s Board of Governors formally approved the sale of Springfield late last week. They removed the conditional status upon getting a lease approved and renovations approved to the Tucson Convention Center was key to their deal and the deal in Springfield.

Monday, the sale of the troubled Portland Pirates was officially approved to Springfield Hockey, LLC by the AHL BOG.

Here is the Florida Panthers news release HERE.

HERE is the Springfield take on the announcement made Monday after the BOG approved the sale to Springfield Hockey LLC after being awarded their franchise. The investors have yet still to be publicly identified, but Cantlon’s Corner learned a month ago that former Falcons’ owner, Charles Pompea and the face of Springfield hockey the last 35 years, Bruce Landon, are among those that are involved. Among the others to be involved, don’t be surprised if MGM-Springfield, who begin running the Mass Mutual Center on July 1st from Spectra, will participate in some manner. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK AHL OFF-SEASON VOLUME 4

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The AHL’s Final Four teams are set.

It took seven games, but the team with the league’s best record, the Toronto Marlies prevailed with a late goal in Game 7 to win 4-3 and eliminate the Albany Devils.

The Marlies were the deepest and most talented team entering the playoffs and were tested in every way in Game 7 and throughout the series with Albany.

Tied at one entering the third period, Albany scored early as Nick Lappin,  just signed out of Brown University after the collegiate season ended in March, scored his fifth of the postseason on a rebound after Jim O’Brien on a face off.

Before a packed crowd at the Ricoh Coliseum, Kasperi Kapanen, son of Whaler great Sami Kapanen, showed off his incredible speed by zipping down the left wing and whistling a wicked wrist shot to the short-side on Devils’ goalie, Scott Wedgewood.

William Nylander, son of former Whaler and New York Ranger Michael Nylander, employed his considerable skill and raced into the Devils zone. Nylander curled in the lower left-wing circle and found Kapanen again as he was open on the left wing. Kapanen waited and found Connor Carrick coming off the right point and hit him with a perfect cross-ice pass and he zipped his shot to the top shelf to take a 3-2 lead.

The Devils didn’t go away as Paul Thompson, a right-handed shot on the left wing side, took Marc-Andre Gragnani’s right point pass and drilled it to the short-side past a partially screened Antoine Bibeau.

Marlies veteran Richard Clune got a fortuitous bounce off the backboards of Andrei Soshnikov’s shot and chipped the puck into the top part of the net with 2:30 left in regulation for the game-winning goal.

The Devils had three whacks at the puck in the waning seconds, but Bibeau was down of the ice and kept his pads stacked to preserve the 4-3 win.

The Marlies will play the Hershey Bears featuring the Bourque brothers, Chris, and Ryan in the Eastern Conference final starting with Games 1 & 2 in Hershey Friday and Saturday night. The series will see a rare schedule of 2-3-1-1 format because of building scheduling issues in Hershey with the circus.

What a difference a year makes by the way.

Despite a strong regular season for Albany, Yann Danis has been the backup this playoff after his spectacular run last spring with the Wolf Pack and played just one period in relief of Wedgewood.

It took seven games and overtime for the Hershey Bears to advance.

Dustin Boyd’s goal at 10:58 gave Hershey a 3-2 over their Keystone State rivals, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Boyd swung around from behind the left-wing side and fired his shot high to the short side earning the Bears the victory.

Hershey took a 2-1 lead on what certainly has to be among those considered for the Goal-Of-The-Year.

Carter Camper made a great move to free himself then made a beautiful forehand-to-backhand move on Casey DeSmith to score the goal.

The Pacific Division series ended in Ontario Saturday night with the Reign winning 2-1 and advancing in five games to the Western Conference title.

Justin Auger had the game winner in the 2-1 Game 5 clincher.

The San Diego Gulls had just one win, a 3-0 shutout in Game Three.

Matt Hackett is the nephew of a former winner of the Calder Cup’s Jack Butterfield Award as the MVP of the playoffs. His uncle is also a goaltender. He’s Jeff Hackett, who played for Springfield in 1990. They younger Hackett pitched a shutout with 29 saves.

The Reign won Game 4 in overtime. The final score was 4-3 despite a strong three-point performance by ex-Hartford Wolf Pack, Chris Mueller.

Mueller set up rookie Shea Theodore on the powerplay with a perfect cross-ice pass from the right wing circle to Theodore at the left point for the first goal of the game.

Mueller potted a goal to tie the game at two from the left side of the net. The shot came off a rebound off the stick of AHL All-Rookie team member, rearguard Brandon Montour, who outworked Ontario captain Vincent LoVerde and jammed the puck home.

The Reign went ahead with two quick goals at 3-2 in a 1:52 span both by Adrian Kempe. Mueller scored ten seconds later going down the left wing side and turned Nic Dowd inside out and beat the league’s best in netminder Peter Budaj, but like last spring in Manchester when they were the Monarchs, the Reign found a way to get the game winner in overtime.

The Lake Erie Monsters looked to complete the sweep of the Grand Rapids Griffins after amassing a 3-0 series lead.  The Griffins, however, fought back to make it to a game six, but the Monsters overtime victory prevented a Game 7 by the count of 4-3. The Monsters will now play the defending AHL Calder Cup champions, the Ontario Reign in the Western Conference final starting Saturday with Game 2 Sunday in California.

Lake Erie was down early 2-0 in the first 2:16 of the game and that became 3-1 early in the second. When that happened, the Monsters replaced starting goalie Joonas Korpisala, with veteran and former Springfield Falcon goalie, Anton Forsberg and he shut the door stopping all 23 shots he faced.

Zach Werenski, the young defenseman just signed out of Michigan after their season ended a month ago, helped in engineering the Monster’s comeback.

Werenski set up Lukas Sedlak’s goal early in the second period with a right point shot. Sedlak chipped in a backhand rebound. Werenski, had the game-winner at 12:32 of overtime getting his rebound of a backhand shot and with four Grand Rapids players all nearby, Werenski got to the loose puck, and he put his second backhander in for the victory.

Had there been a seventh game, it would have been played in Columbus because the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers had a playoff game scheduled for Tuesday the same night that would have forced a date and venue change.

The Griffins rallied from a 4-1 deficit in Game Four with a three-goal third period to win 5-4 and avoid the playoff sweep. Anthony Mantha had a goal and an assist.
Five different Grand Rapids players scored with Andreas Antanasiou tallying the game-winner with 1:55 to go in regulation.
Game 5 was all Grand Rapids a 6-1 win paced by a Tyler Bertuzzi hat trick.

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

French Connection II watching ex-CT Whale Jonathan Marchessault setting up former Ranger Anton Stralman to tie the game at two in Game 2 Monday night. Then Jonathan Drouin, banished to Syracuse in the AHL at midseason, sniping a goal off the right side to tie the game at two.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Pack’s Nicklas Jensen continued the same strong play he showed down the stretch in Hartford’s failed playoff push helped Denmark engineer an upset win over the Czech Republic 2-1 in a shootout.

Jensen helped Denmark engineer an upset win over the Czech Republic 2-1 in a shootout.

He assisted on the game-tying goal, and he scored a shootout goal to keep Denmark alive in the extra round before Nikolas Ehlers scored the game winner.

Monday, Denmark beat Kazakhstan 4-1 with Jensen scoring again and had seven shots on goals, and the Danes secured a quarterfinal appearance because the Swiss lost 5-4 to Czechs on Tuesday. Last Friday, he scored his second goal, a shootout goal, to lead Denmark to a 3-2 win over Latvia. In six games he has five goals (tied for fourth in goals scored with Tomas Plekanec Czech Republic/Montreal) and seven points for the Danes.

Last Friday, Jensen scored his second goal, in the shoot-out to lead Denmark to a 3-2 win over Latvia. In six games he has five goals (tied for fourth in goals scored with Tomas Plekanec Czech Republic/Montreal) and seven points for the Danes.

The quarterfinals start Thursday Denmark plays Finland in St. Petersburg.

Ex-Pack Nigel Dawes continues to do well for Kazakhstan he scored the lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday and again in a loss to Denmark. He has eight points with four goals, good for tenth place in the tournament.

The best scoring defenseman still in the tourney is the Wolf Pack’s Raphael Diaz with six assists for Switzerland. Diaz played the most minutes (19:14) and had four shots on goal in a crucial 5-4 loss to the Czechs eliminating the Swiss from the medal round.

Ex-Sound Tiger Nino Niederreiter is right behind for the Swiss with three goals and five points.

The second best goalie so far is Canada’s and former Wolf Pack, Cam Talbot. In four games, Talbot has a microscopic 0.75 GAA, given up just three goals, pitched two shutouts and has a spectacular 96.0 % save percentage.

The Czech Republic’s Dominic Furch has a 0.65 GAA and a 97.2% save percentage. His numbers are better than Talbot’s, but he has played in only three games while Talbot’s played four.

Reminds you of Talbot’s AHL playoff debut when he shutout the Sound Tigers in three straight in an opening round series.

The US, despite a two-game slump, made the quarterfinals in Group B.

The US lost to Slovakia 3-2 on Tuesday despite getting the games first goal from ex-Sound Tiger, Brock Nelson.The game-winner came off the stick of ex-Springfield Falcon, Marko Dano.

The US plays the Czech Republic on Thursday in Moscow (9:00 am NBC Sports Network).

RANGERS SIGNING

Much heralded right-wing, and third round pick, 75th overall in 2013, Pavel Buchnevich, inked an NHL entry-level deal with the Rangers last week.

The 21-year-old split the year with his hometown KHL team Severstal Cherepovets before being traded to St. Petersburg. For the season, he had 16 goals and 31 points in 58 games. St. Petersburg made it to the KHL Western Conference final of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

His three-year standard entry-level contract has an NHL salary of $925K and an AHL salary of $70K, but the contract according to General Fanager-dot-com has a European assignment clause which could mean if he doesn’t make the Rangers he would likely return to Russia.

ON THE MOVE

Former Hartford Whaler, Randy Cunneyworth, was replaced and reassigned from Rochester as the Buffalo Sabres named Dan Lambert (Kelowna-WHL) as their new AHL head coach.

Congrats to another former Whaler and longtime AHL coach, Tom Rowe, who became GM of Florida (NHL) as part of a major Panthers organizational shuffle.

Curiously, Eric Joyce was named as an assistant GM; he was also the GM of the Portland Pirates last year. When Rowe was given his promotion on January 1st to Assistant GM in Florida after coaching the Pirates in the first half of the season.

Joyce retained the title GM of their of their AHL affiliate, but the team remains unnamed in the press release. The move of their member team from Portland to Springfield is still under review by the AHL, which is set to reconvene in ten days on the matter. The sale was made by the local owner Ron Cain to a yet publicly unidentified ownership group, but Cantlon’s Corner has learned former Falcons owner Charles Pompea and long-time face of Springfield hockey, Bruce Landon, are two of the primary investors.

Sam Ftorek, son of former Nighthawk coach and player Robbie Ftorek, was named the first head coach for Roanoke (SPHL). He was the assistant coach for Kalamazoo (ECHL) last year.

Bridgeport Sound Tiger Sebastian Collberg heads back home to play with Rogle BK (Sweden-SHL) next year making him the sixth AHL’er to sign to play in Europe next season.

Ex-Pack Tomas Zaborsky goes from HIFK Helsinki (Finland-FEL) to Brynas IF (Sweden-SHL), nd defenseman Ilkka Heikkinen goes from Vaxjo (Sweden-SHL) to TPS Turku (Finland-FEL).

Old New Haven Knights forward, Alexei Lazarenko, 40, signed for another year with Vityaz Kharkov to play in the Ukrainian Hockey League. He is just one of seven players left actively playing who wore a New Haven uniform between the AHL and UHL.

AEG Europe announced its team the Hamburg Freezers (Germany-DEL) will not operate next season despite an average attendance of 9.002 (tenth best in Europe) last year when they missed the playoffs.

The team GM is former Nighthawk, Stephane J.G. Richer and ex-Pack, Sam Klassen, played on the team. AEG also owns another team in the DEL Eisbaren Berlin who have the second best attendance of all hockey played in Europe with 13,022 per game.

Rich McKenna was hired as the new head coach for the Division III powerhouse University Wisconsin-Superior. McKenna was an assistant coach at both UConn (AHC years) and Wesleyan University. There are thirteen former UConn players and coaches in the coaching ranks nationally collegiately (Division I and III), juniors, and prep and public schools

US JUNIOR HOCKEY PLAYOFFS

Former UConn player, Trevor Stewart, guided his Fairbanks (AK) Ice Dogs to their third NAHL Robertson Cup title after a 2-0 win over Wichita Falls (TX) Wildcats on Sunday in Edina, MN in the national championship game.

Each team won both semifinal games Fairbanks over Aston (PA) Rebels and Wichita Falls over Bismarck (ND) Bobcats.

In the USHL’s best of five Clark Cup Finals, the Tri-City (NE) Storm are up 2-0 over the Dubuque (IA) Fighting Saints. In Game One, Yale-bound Evan Smith scored the first goal of the game for Dubuque,b ut Tri-City scored the next five goals in a 5-1 victory.

Then in Game 2, Tri-City won 4-2. Smith and his twin brother, Mitchell (also heading to Yale) had five and four shots respectively and former prep school teammate at Salisbury Michael O’ Leary, who is committed to Notre Dame had three shots at Tri-City.

Games 3 and maybe 4 are in Tri-City Friday and Saturday.

The 98th edition of Canadian junior hockey’s Memorial Cup tournament is all set to start in Red Deer, Alberta on Friday night as the host team and city Red Deer Rebels (WHL) play the London Knights in the opening game.

The Rebels join WHL playoff champion Brandon Wheat Kings, QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the OHL juggernaut winners of 13 straight games London Knights coached by Dale Hunter.

The tourney starts Friday and the NHL Network will air the games live with Red Deer in the Mountain time zone. Saturday Brandon plays Rouyn-Noranda and Sunday Red Deer plays Rouyn-Noranda at 7pm.

If you haven’t watched it you should it’s a fantastic view of some future NHL stars already drafted, those to be drafted and of course new names emerge.

ALLAN CUP

Congrats to the Bentley Generals coached by former Wolf Pack, Ryan Tobler, winning their second consecutive Canadian senior hockey title in beating the tournament host Southeast Praire Thunder in Steinbach, Manitoba.

The Generals also featured former Wolf Pack, Matt St fashion, who scored six goals in four games in the tournament. He played most of his season with Big Valley in the North Central (Senior) Hockey League and was added to the Bentley roster for the post season when Big Valley’s season ended.

Former Sound Tiger Adam Huxley was also on the team and he played for his hometown senior team Wainwright (SASHL) in the regular season and was also added for the playoffs.

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK AHL OFF SEASON VOLUME 3

gerry-150x130WOLF PACK AHL OFF SEASON VOLUME 3

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT The minor league hockey map is changing again as the shifting sands continue.

On Tuesday, the AHL Board of Governors (BOG) met in Chicago and conditionally approved the sale of the Springfield Falcons to the Arizona Coyotes. They also approved the team’s relocation to Tucson, AZ where they will start play in the fall at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC).

The Rio Nuevo Board, which oversees the TCC, approved $3.2 million for use in renovation and upgrades to the TCC. It’s a mere formality. They will become the sixth member of the AHL Pacific Division with the release of conference alignments likely coming in July.

The Tucson City Council is expected to finalize a lease. Once it’s approved, that would be the second hurdle cleared on the way to a full approval from the AHL BOG.

The other sale on the agenda is that of the Portland Pirates.  However to a yet un-named investor group in Springfield was tabled for another two weeks before a vote would take place.

The sale of the Pirates is to an unnamed investor group in Springfield. That move was set aside for another two weeks before a vote will take place.

Two versions have emerged regarding the hold-up.

The first is that the Florida Panthers are steamed about the sale and expected to be in Portland as their affiliation agreement stipulated.  The Panthers are threatening to break the 30-30-30 balance of NHL and AHL teams and eventually the 30 ECHL teams in the new model minor league arrangement.

The other is the local investor group in Springfield needs more to show the financial capabilities for purchasing and maintaining the franchise.

One of the major principals in the sale is former Falcons owner, Charles Pompea, and the former Director of Hockley Operations, and the long-time face of Springfield hockey, Bruce Landon. There is also potentially MGM-Springfield, who will be begin running the Mass Mutual Center as of July 1st.

MGM Springfield needs a team as, Spectra, the soon-to-be former management company of the building, has no bookings of any kind scheduled beyond July 1st.

Meanwhile, Portland has already begun the process to gain entry into the ECHL in 2017-18, the same time when Worcester will make it’s entrance.

In a story, in the Portland Press Herald, (HEREthey identify the Pirates GM this past season Brad Church and C. Godfrey Wood, involved in hockey in the region going back to the WHA Whaler days. Cantlon’s Corner has learned through two sources that Wood’s business partners are none other than the Baldwin boys—Howard, Sr., and Howard, Jr.

The group made a bid for the Worcester (ECHL) franchise in the spring and were denied by the city. They tried again recently with the Portland (AHL) sale and according to a source, “were blown out of the water.” Another source, with long-time hockey connections, when confirming Baldwin and Wood were working together in a bid to gain an ECHL franchise for Portland, said, “there are no two better thieves than those two…look out Portland!”

The Baldwin’s left a trail a debt from their last run in Hartford. The trail was more than $3 million to banks, vendors, employees and even the State of Connecticut while running the CT Whale as Hartford Hockey, LLC and never repaid a dime of the money.

CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS

The Toronto Marlies have begun to demonstrate their offensive firepower in smashing Albany Devils 7-2 and 5-1 in the last two games to take a commanding 3-2 in the series. The Devils forced a game seven with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

In the 5-1 win, Milford native and Yale grad, Mark Arcobello, posted three assists and had five points in the last two games.

Andrei Soznikov’s two goals help engineer the 7-1 drubbing. Connor Carrick, William Nylander, Connor Brown and Sam Carrick have posted multiple-point games in the last two as the depth of the Marlies has been on full display.

What a difference a year makes. Despite a strong regular season for Albany, Yann Danis has been the backup this playoff series. After his spectacular run last spring with the Wolf Pack, he has played just one period in relief of starter, Scott Wedgewood. That appearance came in the 7-1 loss. Wedgewood went the distance in the game six win in Toronto and will likely start Game 7 in Albany on Monday.

Albany defenseman, Dan Kelly, was hit with a ten-game suspension for a wicked elbow to the head of Toronto’s Andreas Johanson in that 7-2 loss. Johanson had a brief stay in the hospital. Kelly’s is out for the rest of the series and will miss seven more playoffs games should Albany win and advance or the rest of the games will be served next season.

It’s the second longest suspension of the year. The longest went to the Ontario Reign’s Kurtis MacDermid, youngest son of former Whaler Paul MacDermid, who got twelve games for an illegal hit to the head.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins won Game 6 6-2 over the Hershey Bears on Friday night. That series will see a Game 7 at 5:00 pm on Sunday.

Game 5 Hershey with an intense third period, rallied past the Penguins with Zach Sill having a goal and two assists for the contest in the 5-3 win.  Ryan Bourque, the former Wolf Pack captain, tallied the empty net goal to seal the win.

Lake Erie looked to finish off and sweep Grand Rapids but was stunned as the Griffins rallied from a 4-1 deficit with a three-goal third period in Game Four to win 5-4. Anthony Mantha had a goal and an assist.

Five different Grand Rapids players scored with Andreas Antanasiou scoring the game-winner with 1:55 to go in regulation. The two teams hook up for Game 5 in Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday, and the Griffins kept the series alive with a 6-1 drubbing of the Griffins to send it to a Game 6 on Monday night. A Game 7 would be played on Wednesday if it became necessary.

-The Pacific Division saw the Reign close out the San Diego Gulls with a 2-1 win. The Reign have former Wolf Pack center Kris Newbury on their roster. The Gulls feature ex-Pack Chris Mueller and Stu Bickel on their team.

The Gulls had a 3-0 shutout in the last game played on Sunday with Matt Hackett nephew of former Calder Cup Jack Butterfield playoff MVP goalie Jeff Hackett (Springfield 1990) pitching a shutout with 29 saves.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Current and former Wolf Pack are making quite the impact at the Hockey World Championships.

The Pack’s Nicklas Jensen continues to play well as he showed down the stretch in Hartford’s failed playoff push.

On Friday, Jensen, who scored during regulation, tallied a dazzling goal in the shootout, to lead Denmark to a 3-2 win over Latvia.  In five games for the Danes, Jensen has four goals and five points.

Ex-Pack and Ranger, Nigel Dawes, is doing well for Kazakhstan. Dawes scored the team’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday. He has three goals and four assists (seven points) in five games. That puts Dawes in a five-way tie for the fourth spot in scoring to this stage in the tournament.

The best scoring defenseman in the tourney thus far is the Wolf Pack’s Raphael Diaz with six assists for Switzerland.

Ex-Sound Tiger, Nino Niederreiter, is right behind Diaz for the Swiss. Niederreiter has three goals and five points.

The best goalie to this stage in the tournament has been former Wolf Pack, Cam Talbot. In four games for Team Canada, Talbot has a 1.00 GAA and a spectacular 94.7 % save percentage.

RANGERS SIGNING

The much-heralded, right-wing and a third round pick (75th overall) in 2013, Pavel Buchnevich, inked an NHL entry-level deal with the Rangers.

The 21-year-old split the season with his hometown KHL team, several Cherepovets, before being traded to St. Petersburg. For the season, Buchnevich had 16 goals and 31 points in 58 games. St. Peterburg made it to the KHL Western Conference final of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

In what might be a related story, Russian media reports have stated the Rangers have made an offer to former WolfPack/CT Whale defenseman, Pavel Valentenko. The Russian, who had a monster shot, but little control over it while in Hartford, split the KHL season with Avangard Omsk and Spartak Moscow. The expectation is that should Valentenko sign; he would return to Hartford once both sides agree to a deal.

While the Rangers are looking to getting younger in New York, they also want to add more depth on defense, perhaps Valentenko would have something to do Buchnevich, who does not speak any English.

ON THE MOVE

According to Czech media reports, Richard Nejezchleb is close to signing a deal with HC Litvinov in the Czech Elite League (CEL) for next season. Nejezchleb started last season with the Wolf Pack and scored only one goal in thirteen games before being reassigned on November 17th to Greenville (41-8-15-23).

Carl Klingberg, another ex-Pack playing in Russia, has left Torpedo Novgorod. His departure for the KHL, after last season, truly caught the organization off guard. According to reports, the Rangers are making overtures to him.

Former Wolf Pack/CT Whale Chad Kolarik goes from financially troubled EHC Kloten in Switzerland (LNA) to Adler Mannheim (Germany-DEL) next season.

Benoit Groulx, the highly successful QMJHL coach with the Gatineau Olympics, is making a second stab at coaching in the AHL. His first go was for two years in 2008-2010 with the Rochester Americans, but that didn’t end well. On Thursday, Groulx was named the new head coach for the Syracuse Crunch, the top affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

RANGERS: SUMMER AND SPECULATION BEGINS FOR BLUESHIRTS AFTER ELIMINATION BY PITTSBURGH

Post Game NotesBY: The New York Rangers
CaptureBox Score1CaptureOFFICIAL GAME REPORTS  GOALIES                                                                                           Game Summary                       NYR: H. Lundqvist (L), A. Raanta (ND) PIT: M. Murray (W) Event Summarybanner-team-notes

        GOALS GALORE – New York has registered at least three goals in six of its last seven playoff games on the road, dating back to Game 6 of the Second Round in 2015 against Washington.

        SHOOTING GALLERY – The Rangers recorded 41 shots on goal in today’s contest. The Blueshirts registered at least 40 shots on goal in a playoff game which ended in regulation for the first time since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2012 against Ottawa. Also, the Rangers recorded at least 40 shots on goal in a playoff game on the road which ended in regulation for the first time since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 1997 against Florida. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK HEADING DOWN THE HOME STRETCH

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

CROMWELL, CT – The Hartford Wolf Pack are ready for their final three-in-three weekend of play.

The action for the Pack begins on Friday night with the start of a home-and-home contest with the Springfield Falcons. On Saturday, the game moves south on I-91 for the regular season home finale at the XL Center.

Sunday, the team, travels to Portland Maine for a critical battle with the Pirates starting at 3 pm. Portland is also in the hunt with for the last playoff spot.

The path to a postseason berth for the Pack got harder when the Utica Comets defeated the Binghampton Senators 4-2 Wednesday night. The Comets (36-27-7-4) have built a six-point lead (83-77) over the Wolf Pack (37-30-3-0).

The Pack’s postseason hopes, dim at best, rests on the hope of making the crossover to the North Division.

If the fifth place team in the Atlantic Division has more points that the fourth-place team in the North Division, then the fifth place team from the Atlantic would cross over and play in the North Division.

Bridgeport is the fifth place team. They are currently in a tie for record and percentage points with Portland. However, the Pirates have the tiebreaker, so they sit in fourth place.

Like the Pack, the Sound Tigers also have three games in three days this weekend. The Sound Tigers are in Hershey Friday night to face the Bears in Allentown. On Saturday, they play Lehigh Valley, and the Phantoms visit Bridgeport Sunday afternoon at 5 pm.

The Syracuse Crunch are the fourth-place team in the North Division; They draw the AHL’s second best team, the Albany Devils on Friday night. If that weren’t enough, they take on the best overall team, the Toronto Marlies on Saturday. The Crunch are at home both nights.

If the Sound Tigers drop all three games and Syracuse lose their two, if the Pack sweep the weekend, they would be still in the hunt, but that is an awful lot of chips that have to fall their way.

Even under a strict conference system if applied, they would have to climb over Utica, Bridgeport, and Portland, who are 7-1-2-0 in their last ten games.

The team spent Thursday working on their in-close play and tried to get their powerplay in synch. That lack of cohesion cost them dearly in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Portland. Continue reading

RANGERS: COMING UP SHORT AGAINST THE PENS

Post Game NotesBY: The New York RangersCaptureBox ScoreCapture1OFFICIAL GAME REPORTS          GOALIES                                                                             Game Summary                               PIT: M-A Fleury (W)  NYR: H. Lundqvist (OT)                   Event Summary
banner-team-notes1

        POINT TAKEN – The Rangers extended their point streak to four games (3-0-1) and had earned at least one point in six of their last seven games (4-1-2). New York has also earned at least one point in 12 of its last 16 games (9-4-3). The Rangers have also earned at least one point in 29 of their last 41 games (24-12-5), including 28 of their last 39 games (23-11-5) and 27 of their last 37 games (22-10-5). Continue reading